National Defence advances the Seamless Canada initiative with provinces and territories

Seamless Canada meeting in Ottawa
Military spouses and representatives from Canada’s provinces and territories met with National Defence leadership at the second Seamless Canada meeting in Ottawa on December 5 and 6, 2018. Photo credit: Private Tori Lake, CFSU(O)

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Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) representatives met for two days in Ottawa on December 5-6, 2018 with counterparts from all 13 provinces and territories to advance the Seamless Canada initiative, first initiated this past summer.

National Defence launched Seamless Canada on June 27 to improve the coordination of relocation services across the country when CAF members and their families move to a different province or territory. The Ottawa symposium focussed on finding ways to streamline and enhance services across governments on issues specific to military members and their families.

A Canadian Forces Ombudsman report released in 2013 found that relocation is a major cause of stress and strain for military families, who can expect to move three times more frequently than the average civilian over the course of a member’s career in the CAF. Specific stressors include access to healthcare, employment, child care and education, which all come under provincial and territorial jurisdictions.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan H. Vance and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas set the tone for the December meetings with their opening remarks.

“Improving services across Canada for Canadian Armed Forces members and their families is a must,” General Vance said. “Moving is a challenging experience even in the best conditions, and I am committed to helping make things easier and less stressful when they relocate across the country.” Deputy Minister Thomas added, “With military families moving frequently in service of their country, relocation is absolutely one of the most difficult parts of military life.”

The Ottawa roundtable discussions centred on health care, spousal employment, and education and childcare. The participants also worked on shaping the governance of the Seamless Canada framework and deciding on a strategic, long-term path to improving how military families can better transition between the provinces and territories.

A number of military spouses have also featured prominently in shaping the Seamless Canada dialogue. They spoke to the assemblies in June, and again in Ottawa this month about their personal experiences with relocation.

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, also emphasized his support for the Seamless Canada initiative during the two-day Ottawa symposium.

“The wellbeing of the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces and their families is my priority. Relocations can be a difficult experience for members and their families, and we are committed to resolving issues and easing that burden. We thank the provinces and the territories for working collaboratively to find solutions that will improve the lives of Canada’s military families,” said Sajjan.

Seamless Canada supports Canada’s Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) by helping the CAF retain the talented people it recruits, while ensuring their wellbeing and looking after the best interests of their families. For additional information on how military members will be supported under Canada’s defence policy initiatives from when they join, throughout their careers, and after they become veterans, go to: Chapter One of Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE).

Seamless Canada builds on steps already taken by provincial ministries in Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick that enhance services for military families. Other provinces have also worked hand in hand with Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) in the past and will continue to do so in order to streamline services in those jurisdictions.

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